Rangi Ruru Students Selected for International STEM Project

From more than 4000 applications, six students from Rangi Ruru Girls’ School are the only New Zealand participants selected for an international STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) project.


The Junior Academy is a group of problem solvers made up of students, STEM experts, and companies around the world dedicated to designing innovative solutions to global challenges.

Rangi Ruru girls Jocelyn Bradley (Year 12), Penny Dray (Year 12), Sam Summerfield (Year 10), Amber Spurway (Year 10), Sarah Lawrence (Year 10) and Lucy Anderson (Year 10) are amongst 528 students from 51 countries.

Each year, students aged between 13 and 19 are invited to apply to join The Junior Academy, where they team up with other young people from around the world, to effectively develop research-driven solutions to global problems. Successful applicants gain lifelong access to exclusive educational opportunities and a remarkable global STEM network through Launchpad, a virtual collaboration platform. They also become members of the New York Academy of Sciences, which is the umbrella organisation for the Junior Academy.

Some influential leaders in industry are also involved, including the leading food specialist for PepsiCo who is working with Amber Spurway and her group.

“We are looking at nutrition, agriculture and food systems and are looking for an non-invasive way to measure the nutritional value of food,” Amber says. “Our team has decided to build a rudimentary spectrophotometer to be used with our mobile phones, which will be able to measure iron levels in foods and soil levels. This can be used in countries with acute malnutrition, so they can be informed on whether they are lacking iron. At the moment we are in the stages of gathering materials for prototypes, and we have a meeting each Monday morning to catch up. As far as I am aware, all the other teams are also doing well, although there is quite a bit of time pressure to get finished in time.”

The other Rangi Ruru girls are applying themselves to the following fields:

Sarah: I am on a nutrition team and at this stage we are looking at ways of identifying vitamin B-12 deficiency. Two of my team members are from New York, one from North Carolina, one from the Philippines and one from Israel. My mentor is a professor doing cancer research in America.

Sam: I am involved in the micronutrients challenge, and we are still negotiating our game plan!

Lucy: My group’s project is under the micro-nutrient challenge. We are looking into how micronutrients effect brain growth in the first 1000 days of development. We have a team of six with students from India, Tanzania and the US.

Penny and Jocelyn: We are missing the first round of challenges so we can focus on getting the best results for our NCEA exams but hope to pick up the next challenge in January 2017.

More about the Junior Academy

The Junior Academy strives to achieve the goal of a sustainable and bountiful future for all by working in the following areas:

  • Challenge Topics
  • Nutrition, Agriculture, and Food Systems
  • Public Health and Well-being
  • Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
  • Sustainability and Climate Change
  • Energy
  • Biodiversity
  • Space
  • Education
  • Equity
  • Emerging Technologies
  • Economic Development and Entrepreneurship
  • Security and Resilience

Twice a year (in September and January), Junior Academy members are invited to participate in a set of innovation challenges. Each challenge is preceded by a boot camp designed to arm students with skills needed to effectively develop research-driven solutions to global problems with peers around the world. Members are required to participate in at least one challenge during their first year in the community. Boot camp participation is recommended, but optional.

In preparation for challenges, members gain access to best-in-class online learning resources to develop relevant skills in areas such as research methods, design thinking, and data analysis.

Teams gain access to STEM professionals with expertise in relevant subject areas, and may choose to work with a dedicated mentor throughout the challenge process.

During the challenge, students work to develop solutions to real-world problems that can have an immediate impact.

For further information visit thejunioracademy.org

16 December 2016

Rangi Life